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Siberut Islands, The Asian Galapagos

17 June 2011 1,235 views No Comment

The Forgotten Asian Galapagos

Siberut Island is one of the Mentawai islands in West Sumatra that have high value of ecosystem. The island is located about 100-155 km from the western city of Padang, separated by the Mentawai Strait, 60% of the area is covered by primary dipterocarp forest, mixed primary forest, swamps, coastal forests, and mangrove forest.

The forests in national parks is relatively unspoiled, with many large trees with more than 60 meters high.
The best time to visit: June to September each year.

Siberut island has been separated for more than half million years ago by sea from mainland Asia. The process of separation since the glacial epoch (the Pleistocene) has made the island of Siberut has a unique flora, fauna, ecosystems, indigenous culture and life which survived and regardless of the dynamic process of evolution. This long isolation triggers the emergence of endemic flora and fauna.

Although forest in Siberut is the type of tropical forest because it has a high rainfall and temperature, but the composition of the forest on this island has certain uniqueness that make it different with other tropical forests. The same reason why the island is dubbed as Asian Galapagos because it has a high level of endemicity like Galapagos Islands visited by CHARLES DARWIN (The Father of Evolution), which was written in his book full of controversy; THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES

The Fauna

The most interesting fauna and the greatest natural wealth are four species of endemic primates of Mentawai Island:

Bilou or Siamang Edil (Hylobates klosii).
A kind of gibbons which exist only on the Mentawai Island. This primate has a beautiful voice and is the basis of sound-gibbons in Asia.

Simakubo or pig tail monkeys (Simia concolor)
Very unique characteristics and has closer kinship with bekantan that lives in Borneo. Golden Simakobu is feared by local people, if it get caught the skull would not be kept in the house.

Joja or Mentawai monkey (Presbytis potenziani)
One of the 8 species of the most beautiful monkey in Indonesia. Their social life differs with other primate species, male and female have primitive behavior and voice, one male with several females (harem).

There are 27 species of mammals found, where 65% is endemic species with the largest is sambar deer (Cervus unicolor Oceanus). Then the bats, five types of squirrels, three types of mice, loga/ black squirrel (Callosciurus melanogaster).

In the marine ecosystem and beach there are dugongs (Dugong dugon), the bottle mouth dolphin, ornamental fish and interesting coral formations. There are at least 116 species of birds with only one endemic species that is Mentawai Owl(Mentawai Otus).

On reptil there are flower python (main predators), and an endemic species of snake Calamaria klossi and one endemic sub species Boiga nigreceps brevicaudata, estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), three species of sea turtles Chelonia mydas (green turtle), Eretmochelys imbricata (Hawksbill turtle), Dhermochelys coriacata (tortoise shell).

Invertebrate species including Acridiae, Zeroptera, Amathusiidae, Araneae, Cicadiae and freshwater crabs, freshwater mollusk and freshwater crab (Palecypoda), polymesoda, Gastropoda and Ephemeroptera (insect).

The Flora

Dipterocarpaceae forest
Spread at the back peak of the hill with high potential economic, ecological and hydrological. Dominant species in North Siberut is Diptericarpus clan. While in south area of Siberut are the types of Shorea and Hopea. The endemic flora are the Horsfieldia macrothysa and Mesua cathrinae.

Mixed forest
It’s the most widely type and has the highest biodiversity found in the most regions of the valley to the slopes of the hills under dipterocarp forest, the endemic types are Aporusa quadrilocularis , Diospyros brevicalyx, Drypetes subsymmetrica, Horsfieldia macrothysa and Mesua catharinae.

Forest Beach
Generally found along the west coast dominated with baringtonia, overgrown with pines, sea fir and the endemic species named Drypetes subsymmetrica.

Swamp Forest
Spread on the flat land and the stagnant water. This forest has a specific and limited types of flora and dominated by Terminalia phellocarpa. Land plants consists of rattan, pandanus and hairy palm with endemic species Horsfieldia macrothysa.

Mangrove Forest
No less than 63% of mangrove forest tree species in Indonesia can be found in East Coast of Siberut Island where there is a shallow sea and many rivers that precipitates mud. The types found are the genera Rhizophora, Bruguiera and Sonnetaria.

Disturbed Forest (Secondary)
Related closely with socioeconomic factors and forest communities that are generally located close to settlements and river flow. Disturbed forest is a result of public disturbances such as burning or illegal logging.

Tegakan Sagu
Spread over the swamps area. The Metroxylon sago tree on this island has a large trunk and height up to 18 meters which is the source material of food and reserves(carbohydrates) for the people of Siberut since hundreds of years ago.

Here’s the location:

View Siberut National Park, Sumatra, Indonesia in a larger map

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